On Tuesday morning, a small group of family members, friends and community supporters gathered in front of 3112 South Ringo Street in Little Rock, where I’Quira Tate, 21, and Brittany Tate, 24, were killed in a shooting on Saturday, Jan. 25 that also wounded I’Quira’s 2-year-old son. Benny Johnson, founder of Arkansas Stop the Violence, asked for people with information about the shooting to come forward.
“We have an animal that’s running the street, and this animal needs to be taken off the street,” Johnson said. “We got two young ladies taken for no reason, and I want to ask the community, the person or persons who did this, if you know they did it, you need to turn them in. Because you’ll be the very next victim.”
Brittany Tate’s mother and sister were present at the press conference, and they held hands as Johnson spoke.
Johnson said the “community” needed to get more involved in crime prevention, calling for neighborhood watches and saying more people need to speak up when they see crimes committed.
“We need to start seeing things,” Johnson said. “It never ceases to amaze me, [in] my 29 years [with] Arkansas Stop the Violence… [if] a black man on this corner … gets shot, 100 people [are] out there, and none of them have seen anything. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Johnson introduced Brother Larry X, a member of the Nation of Islam, who also called for more control of “our own neigborhood and everything in it, so we can flush out this type of behavior.”
Earl Williams, a member of the Central Arkansas Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, spoke next. Williams said he lost three of his sons to homicide. He described the neighborhood in which I’Quira and Brittany Tate were killed as a “war zone” that needs to be better monitored by police.
“The city needs to police this area a lot more than they do, because this is nonsense,” Williams said. “A senseless killing, for what? All the families are going through this grief. Don’t let these families go through what I’m going through.”
Williams also pointed out that violence and crime only becomes a problem when it “crosses University.”
“When it crosses University into the areas where [police] are always there, you hear about a little trouble,” Williams said. “Over here, there’s trouble all the time. You hear gunshots day and night. … They need to patrol these areas like they patrol other areas. Our lives matter, too.”
Williams then said the “pressure” to reduce crime in the community is “on the city,” and that all it needs to do is “invest” in Little Rock.
“If you invest in your city, it’ll pay off,” Williams added.
Johnson said Ward 2 director Ken Richardson and Ward 1 director Erma Hendrix were the only city directors who reached out to Arkansas Stop the Violence to “show any kind of concern about what’s going on in our city.”
Richardson began his comments by asking for thoughts and prayers for the Tate family, in the wake of a “senseless tragedy that no family or community should ever have to deal with.” Richardson said he was there because sometimes the city, “intentionally or unintentionally,” says that “things like this are OK as long as they happen in certain parts of our community.”
“I also have issues with my colleagues, who always say, ‘Public safety is No. 1. We’re not going to tolerate crime. We’re not going to tolerate violence,’ ” Richardson said. “And yet, we tolerate the conditions that produce crime and violence. I think that’s talking out of both sides of the mouth.”
“I think that had this happened north of [Interstate 630], the city would have shut down,” Richardson added. “We’d have had all kinds of responses, all kinds of press conferences and emergency meetings, a task force or a committee. And if it happens in certain parts of our city, we act as if it’s business as usual. We don’t pause and say, ‘This is an aberration.’ ”
Richardson also said he had “one exception” to what Williams said about increased police presence in the community.
“I don’t think we can police our way out of this, Richardson said. “I think we can put a hundred police on this corner and they cannot stop what’s going on … . Police don’t prevent crime, they respond to crime.”
He brought up the issue of police officers who work in Little Rock but don’t live in the city, saying he was “really going to aggressively fight” the idea of “community oriented policing.”
“How can you have community oriented policing in a community that police don’t want to live in? That they don’t value?” Richardson asked. “And I think, inadvertently, sometimes they don’t value the people.”
Richardson called for “concrete solutions” to problems in the community, including employment, housing and access to mental health care, “beyond more police and bigger jails.”
Chris Carrigan, assistant pastor of the Temple of Restoration Church of God in Christ, closed the press conference with a prayer. He implored the perpetrator of the homicides, as well as witnesses from the night of the crime, to come forward.
“For the ones who are guilty, I know that you’re going to see this,” Carrigan said. “I’m calling you out. In the name of Jesus, we ask that you come forth. We demand you to come forth.”
Brittany’s mother began crying after the prayer and was embraced by her daughter and Richardson.